How Referees Deal With Trash Talking

"You can't stop me," "The only way that you can stop me is by fouling," "You got nothing" and "Look at the scoreboard" -- are the words of a trash-talker.

I’ve written about trash-talking several years before and I would like to add some additional insights. As soon as trash-talking starts, there are problems and the level of discipline on the field goes down one notch when the ref catches a player trash-talking but goes down several levels if the trash-talker gets away with it.

Now Soccer Americans who read my monthly articles know that I advocate using the same set of FIFA rules for all U.S. Soccer, college and high school games. Yet taunting must be a big issue in high school soccer as it’s an ejectionable offense. Hold on to that thought for a minute.

Now outside of high school soccer, when an official hears trash-talking, the ref needs to at least verbally warn that player and let everybody on the field be aware that talking smack will not be tolerated. If it continues, the player would be cautioned for unsporting behavior. The ref could also immediately caution a trash-talking player. Should the ref hear a trash-talking player utter a curse or a slur word, such as a racial slur, the player is sent off for offensive, insulting or abusive language. No exceptions!

Refs are to be especially vigilant for trash-talking by the attacking team after a goal is scored and look at the player who scored since a scoring player sometimes trash talks. Other times for officials to be particularly aware of taunting is after a foul is whistled or a player is megged.

Trash-talking is an issue with teenage boys and men. It probably occurs with females too but I can never recall ever hearing a girl or woman trash-talk on a soccer field.

In the outdoor soccer games that I officiate, I’ll hear trash talking on occasion but hear it and have to deal with it a great deal with high school-age boys playing futsal. Why is this the case? Let’s go back to high school soccer making taunting a red card offense. I believe that part of the problem here is that many high school games still use the two-referee system, which futsal uses as well. One ref is on each touchline, the players are on the field and most know that a ref is not nearby to hear any trash-talking.

The sport that I immediately associate trash-talking with is basketball and the position of the refs is similar in that they are on the exterior of the court.

I understand that the speed of play in both futsal and basketball prohibits a referees from being in the middle of the field, where they would be constantly struck by the ball. But by being positioned on the exterior, refs need to be especially vigilant to trash-talking and negative reactions after opposing players talk to one another. What has worked for me in futsal is the ref who is not near the ball to scan players off-the-ball frequently rather than staying focused on the ball.

(Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating," has officiated more than 10,000 games.)

13 comments about "How Referees Deal With Trash Talking".
  1. frank schoon, February 21, 2020 at 2:57 p.m.

    I can't believe this....You can't trash talk...OMG...Seriously, I can't believe we've gotton this far in soccer. I don't know whether to laugh or cry...

    Now, I was never a trash talker but I do talk on the field and that relates mostly to tactical things one might anticipate. You'be surprised how little players talk during a game for most don't think the game but instead react to a situation. I remember during a simple pick up game, I was positioning myself defensively off the ball against someone from Germany who had the ball. We played with small goals and I looked where he was coming from, where I was positioned, and the angle of the possible  shooting attempt by him at goal. I took one step to my right in order to block the shooting lane, which took care of any threats.
     The moment I did ,I yelled to my teammates for I didn't want them to come back and commit on defense thereby losing any further offensive potential upfield, "he's got nothing". The funny part about it was the opponent  felt insulted and said in his German accent " what do you mean I have nothing ?", perhaps thinking I commented on his abilities. I didn't answer him back for I thought maybe he needs to go home and play with his Legos....a few minutes later one of my teammates explained what I meant, for he at least understood. Perhaps in a real game this ref would have carded me.

    As an offensive, attacking  type of player who loves to beat defenders 1v1 with a fancy move or trick, I ,many times, have been on the receiving end of trash talk by a defender. That's all part of the game, that's what drives my competitive spirit for it challenges me to want to beat my opponent. 

    The refs have too much to do in a game like calling fouls or other infractions, that initself is a problem, instead of having to worry about getting  upset by thrash talk and don't mean racial stuff.....Soccer is over a hundred years and I can only imagine what's been said out on the field and now we have wussy players who can't take  a little verbal jabbing....

  2. uffe gustafsson, February 21, 2020 at 5:34 p.m.

    Frank think you missed the point.
    trash talking leads to more fouls and more severe fouls. Exactly what as a referee you don't want.
    thats when you can loose control of a game.
    second point, HS games are an extension of the class room. Don't think it's suitable in a class room to call other students bad names or taunting em.
    i have always as a referee told the players before the game that I won't tolerate any swear words or any other bad behavior, if you do any of that I will tell your coach to bring you off the field and you can sit down and think it over. Occasionally A player might use the F word if they screw up and I will give em a warning.
    but never if it's directed to another player.

  3. frank schoon replied, February 21, 2020 at 5:52 p.m.

    Unless a player makes a direct threat to another player than the ref should step in, other than that the ref should stick to calling a good game for often it's bad calls by the ref  that often upsets players and called influence the game negatively. As far as I'm concerned any problems on the field is a reflection upon the coach and that is where it should begin and of trying to micro-ref the game...

  4. frank schoon replied, February 21, 2020 at 5:55 p.m.

    A ref should approach the coach for he should be held responsible for his people instead the ref having to after each player on the field....Remember the attitude of the players and their behavior goes right back to the coach..

  5. Bob Ashpole, February 21, 2020 at 6 p.m.

    I agree with uffe. As a coach I would not tolerate misconduct even if the officials missed it. I stressed fair play and respect. In the most serious cases I dropped players. (Occasional foul language not directed at others is not something I saw as a problem. I have been known to utter a four letter word myself when I muffed a ball or pulled a muscle. Just proves I am human.)

  6. frank schoon replied, February 21, 2020 at 6:52 p.m.

    Exactly, Bob, let's leave the human be. I don't have a problem for a kid saying, sh*t,or f*ck , but I do have a problem with a ref reacting to it. There are a lot more important problems out there the ref has to deal with. This game or most games are emotionally laden and I find it rediculous for a ref to play word police out there

  7. James Madison, February 21, 2020 at 7:43 p.m.

    1.  A referee needs to be alert to taunting gestures as well as language.

    2.  Randy, baby, I will admit it's rare, but, if you've never heard a female high school or college or competitive Sunday player call another "bitch!," you haven't lived.

  8. R2 Dad, February 22, 2020 at 6:45 p.m.

    I think Randy's comments are appropriate for all boys youth matches starting around U13 when the testosterone starts ramping up. It's really in relation to maintaining control and staying aware if the contract spools up, the coaches start instigating, the fans cheer their kids into a frenzy of tackles. Frank's entitled as an adult to self-regulate, and we expect grownups to know where to draw the line. I think it's harder for developing kids to do the same.

  9. uffe gustafsson, February 22, 2020 at 8:55 p.m.

    Ok Frank you said often it's a bad call by the ref.
    i have to take umbrage to that, it's only a bad call when it goes against you but a good call when it's in your favor. We referees don't take sides we call it by the laws of the game. Sure do we make mistakes but not even close what the players do on the field or the coach screaming on sideline and have never read the laws of the games. And barely know the rules.
    so please don't tell us referees about bad calls.

  10. frank schoon replied, February 23, 2020 at 7:58 a.m.

    Uffe, have you ever heard of VAR. it was implemented to sometimes aid the ref or sometimes prove him wrong or show him what he had missed that half of the crowd did not miss ...enough said!!!. Even players can have a bad game and so can refs. Sometimes a ref can let a game get away from him and can add to the chaos by some of his calls......

  11. frank schoon replied, February 23, 2020 at 8:05 a.m.

    Uffe, it is not about  knowing the rules for if that was the case why would we need a VAR....

  12. Mike Lynch, February 23, 2020 at 7:35 p.m.

    Trash talking has creeped into the sporting world in the last 20 years because it makes for entertainment. It is not because it drives better performance. Elite athletes are just that, elite. Vice does not make them better. Research would say just the opposite. Among elite athletes, vice comes up short more often than not compared to ones who stay focused on the game, the team, not themselves and their market value. In the old days of yesteryear, words were exchanged for sure, but more often than not, due to a player crossing the line and the talker was letting the offender know that will not be tolerated. It was not about bragging, it was about letting the hack know it's about to get real ugly if the behavior continues. Trash talking is not going away, but it does not need to be encouraged nor tolerated. Every time I see a TEAM talking trash, including the 49ers overcelebrating an interception as if they just won the super bowl ... my first thought was you better get your head back into this game or you won't know what is about to hit you, which the Chiefs did. 

  13. frank schoon replied, February 23, 2020 at 9:43 p.m.

    Mike, I think the trashtalking we're talking about happens during a game  between 2 players on the field that nobody is aware of other than the two players involved. You went way beyond about we're talking about. For example the biggest trash talker in the NBA ever ,hands down, and stated by many of his competitors in the NBA players is Larry Bird. I was shocked to hear that for you wouldn't know it watching him play, but he was all mouth and he could back it up. Bird was great, and definitely a top professional. That's the kind of trashtalking that I have no problem with and makes for a good healthy competition....

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